Beyond the Selfie: The Real Role of Social Media in Cosmetic Surgery

There’s been much discussion of late about the role social media plays in people’s decisions to pursue cosmetic surgery. Even as articles and studies consistently demonstrate that aesthetic consumer are indeed influenced by social media, some doctors maintain it’s not a factor for them because they stay busy enough through direct referrals from existing patients.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, much of the discussion has been generated by the rise of the selfie. On the one hand, those smartphone self-portraits are easily shot and shared; on the other, they’re often unflattering, which may explain the tendency to switch from camera mode to scheduling a consult.

But focusing exclusively on “I don’t like how I look” selfies misses the larger point: Potential patients use social media to look at other people’s pictures (along with asking questions, reading reviews, etc.). And while magazine editors and medical professionals may approach the role of social media in cosmetic surgeries differently, potential aesthetic consumers represent the one group that can speak most truthfully about the impact it plays in their decision-making.

And speak they have. In a recent RealSelf survey, 527 people responded to the question: “Has social media influenced you to consider or choose to have a cosmetic procedure?” Nearly half (49%) confirmed the impact with 15.37% answering with a simple “Yes,” and  33.40% saying, “Somewhat, I knew I wanted a change, but photos on social media made me more aware.”

Their follow-up comments only underscore the significance:

Social media has given me a resource that would otherwise not be available to see options available and provide real information as well as photos of the possible results.

I had some reservations about procedures and social media put my mind at ease.

I already knew I needed to have the work done; social media only helped me come to the conclusion of not putting the work off. It also helped me research the procedure and physicians.

They have made me feel as though it’s ok to get a breast augmentation.

I’ve been wanting a BBL for a few years now. Seeing the women on social network who have gotten surgery or not motivates me to get it sooner.

Clearly, there’s more to the relationship between social media and cosmetic surgery than the rise of the selfie. As the comments above (and all over RealSelf) suggest, people turn to social media to conduct research on procedures, to read up on doctors, to share their fears and concerns and, last most definitely not least, to experience the support and reassurance of others who have been there before.

Patients today are highly influenced by what others say, noted RealSelf CEO Tom Seery recently in Dermatology Times. In this information gathering, people trust opinions of their peers, mainly reviews, and information posted by medical experts, such as answers to questions.

That last point is doubly important. Given that so many people clearly rely on social media as they pursue their aesthetic journeys, doctors who engage with them along the way gain invaluable exposure that can translate into inquiries and scheduled procedures down the road. Those who don’t, won’t. As Seery puts it,

Connectivity has forever changed the ways prospective patients engage with your practice.

And connectivity is what social media is all about.

About Rob Lovitt

Rob Lovitt is a longtime writer and editor who believes every good business has a great story to tell. He has written for dozens of magazines and websites, including NBCnews.com, Expedia.com and the inflight magazines of Alaska, Horizon and Frontier airlines.

, , ,